Many terms are used to describe different styles of tango, such as tango milonguero, tango apilado, tango Villa Urquiza, estilo del centro, estilo del barrio, tango de salon, tango fantasia, tango Nuevo, and tango para exportar, etc.
The fundamental cause of stylistic differences lies in human psychology. People who are feeling-oriented incline to the inward experience. These dancers, of whom many are milongueros, have developed the milonguero style, which is danced in close embrace with slight leaning (apilado) against each other, using simple and compact steps to allow the couple to focus on the inward experiences. These dancers often dance at the tango clubs in downtown Buenos Aires where the floors are crowded, hence the term estilo del centro, or downtown style. Milonguero style features embrace and feelings.
People who are movement-oriented are fond of fancy steps. Such dancers, of whom many also are milongueros, have developed the Villa Urquiza style, also known as the salon style, which is danced in a loose embrace with an upright posture, using stylish figures and more adornments. These dancers like to dance at the neighborhood clubs, such as Club Sin Rumbo in the neighborhood of Villa Urquiza, where the dance floors are open, hence the term estilo del barrio, or neighborhood style. Villa Urquiza style features footwork and impression. (See How Tango Is Led.)
Milonguero style and Villa Urquiza style are commonly recognized as tango de salon, or social tango. Social tango is a loose term broad enough to include stylistic differences and narrow enough to exclude anti-social behaviors. Social dancers may be feeling-oriented or movement-oriented, but they all dance at the clubs and abide by the milonga codes. (See Milonga Codes.)
From 1955 to 1983 Argentina was ruled by a succession of military juntas whose policies discouraged social tango. Curfews were enforced and people were constantly stopped by the police for interrogation. Many were arrested or simply disappeared for aligning with the previous Peronist regime. As a result, people stopped dancing socially and tango went underground. The absence of social tango during this period gave Tango Fantasia an opportunity to take the stage. When the military rule ended in 1983, it was this style that led the revival of tango. (See Tango: Historical and Cultural Impacts.)